||The Brazen Careerist
Dealing with age discrimination
I get a lot of e-mail from people who are 50 years
old and older and never expected to be unemployed at this stage
in their careers. Many of these people are annoyed that they are
not appreciated for how much they know. Others are bitter, angry
or indignant. Oftentimes, these complaints come down to one thing:
Hiring managers know they shouldn't discriminate based
on age, but they do it anyway. Even when the victim has proof, a
lawsuit usually is not as appealing as just getting a job. Ridding
the world of injustice is a luxury best left for those who do not
have trouble paying their grocery bills -- now or during retirement.
I have not experienced age discrimination, but with
sex discrimination I have found that bitterness and anger only hurt
me. I am certain I have missed opportunities because I am a woman.
But in my early twenties, when I was bitter and angry about sex
discrimination, I was bitter and angry wherever I went. And my unpleasant
personality hurt me way more than any lost opportunities.
Most hiring managers do not discriminate against women,
or older people, but all hiring managers discriminate against people
who are angry and bitter. And they should because angry, bitter
people are difficult to work with. So if you want to get a job,
you need to stop being angry that people discriminate against you.
It's very hard to hide anger and bitterness -- they
poke out of any little opening they can find. The fastest way to
get rid of them: Convince yourself that most people are basically
good, and when you encounter a jerk, assume he or she is an aberration
and move on.
I have spoken with recruiters about age discrimination,
and recruiters say that age is not an issue if the candidate does
not make it an issue. Enthusiastic, curious and ambitious candidates
are gems no matter what the age.
But some candidates don't want to work for someone
younger than they are. Some candidates can't hear constructive criticism
because they assume its ageism. These people are doomed in the job
market because they come off looking bitter. Before you cite ageism,
ask yourself who is making the big deal about your age.
My mom is a great example of someone who has overcome
the age barrier. She is almost 60 but re-entered the job market
at 50. She has received many promotions and she loves her job. I
am convinced that her success is due, in part, to the fact that
she is never angry about being old, and she is never bitter about
reporting to someone twenty years younger than she is.
While my mom is just one person, she is a good example.
She has a lot more experience in life than the people she works
with, and she could lord that over people in a you-can-learn-from-me
way. Instead, she focuses on things that are new to her -- what
she can learn, what she can accomplish. In that way, she conveys
the bright-eyed excitement that is essential in an enthusiastic
So if you want to beat discrimination, try to ignore
it. I am not suggesting that ageism is OK. It's not. But it exists,
and you need to figure out how to get a job in the real world.
So accept where you are in life and embrace that.
If you are pleased with who you are, you will have a much easier
time convincing a hiring manager that she or he will be pleased
For all of you who are disgusted by rampant
discrimination, I have found that the best way to change workplace
culture is to infiltrate. You can't change workplace culture by
whining from the outside, but you can change it once you are part
of it. I have always used my positions in management to hire a diverse
staff. You can promote diversity, too. Once you get a job.